Moonrise Kingdom is a child's view of a memory of the 1960s. Not a 21st century child, mind you. A child of the mid-20th century. It is a totally false memory, of course, so I prefer to think Wes Anderson and Roman Coppola wrote Moonrise Kingdom as a fantasy, without the unicorns.
Moonrise Kingdom is a story of young love, broken hearts and lost dreams, which Mr. Anderson directed and produced. In some ways, it’s very simple. The girl — 12, knee socks and a short dress, eyeliner, she speaks little and has a pair of left-handed scissors. The boy — 12,over-sized glasses, coonskin cap, corncob pipe: Welcome to 1965. Although adults may not believe it, these two fell in love, and that’s the most important thing in this movie.
Moonrise Kingdom is sweetly nostalgic for a time that never was. This story could not be told in the present tense, not in today’s uptight and frightened society. So Mr. Anderson has brought himself and his characters back in time, and we enjoy them for an hour and a half. Much more and we might not allow ourselves to suspend disbelief despite the engaging music, the cinematography with soft, natural tones by Robert D. Yeoman, and the interesting performances. Besides, everyone smokes.
The set-up includes a house that looks like a lake house where a couple families might live in summers. Apparently not – the Bishop family lives here all year round. Their house is on one end of a small island off the New England coast, where people write and receive letters, listen to music and read to pass their summer days. A scout camp is at the opposite end. Across the cove there’s a bigger bit of civilization with a bigger scout camp, and a prosperous town, including a church where Benjamin Britten’s Noyes Fludde is playing, or has played, and may play again. Mr. Britten’s music accompanies much of this film, starting with his “The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra” played on a small portable record player. Then there’s some Hank Williams, then more Britten. Music and orchestrations during the film are by Conrad Pope and they’re marvelous. In addition, original music by Alexandre Desplat is clever and fitting.
|Suzy and Sam meet in the meadow.|
From one end of the island comes orphan and foster child Sam (Jared Gilman), 12 years old and looking for love. From the Bishop house there’s Suzy (Kara Hayward), misunderstood, fleeing (for “ten days or less” as she tells her little brother when she borrows his portable record player) an unhappy household where the mom calls the kids to meals with a bullhorn, when she’s not fooling around with the Island’s police officer. These two star-crossed lovers will meet in the meadow, and the adventure begins, building up to an emotional crescendo in time for an infamous hurricane that floods coves and dams and knocks steeples off churches.
Bruce Willis is just marvelous as the sad-sack, good-hearted Captain Sharp who loves Mrs. Bishop, warmly played by Frances McDormand. She and her husband Walt, oddly (and that’s not a bad word in this movie) played by Bill Murray, are both lawyers, and their idea of pillow talk is following up on each other’s court motions. On the other end of the island, Scout Master Ward is an 8th grade math teacher during school season, but considers the scouts his more important job. Edward Norton plays the scout master with a sad fragility, gaining strength when needed — in some ways, that hurricane did people a lot of good.
|Murray, Swinton, Willis, Norton, McDormand|
Tilda Swinton makes a particularly odd appearance as a blue-clad “Social Services” unit. There she was in her little cap, skirt suit, in an electric blue. What was that about? I didn’t particularly care, but the blue pulled focus. She served a purpose in the plot, but unlike everyone else in the film, she was merely odd, not interesting.
Wandering through the smoke, rain, and wind is Bob Balaban, master of ceremonies, narrator, historian. I have no idea what’s fiction and what’s non-, since I tend to believe everything Balaban says.
Overall: Moonrise Kingdom has great music, it’s a leisurely, odd, quirky little film. It has a calming effect, and even the closing credits are sweet and cleverly done. It’s a nice Saturday afternoon at the movies. If your movie budget this summer is limited, Moonrise Kingdom will be just as undemandingly enjoyable and effective on the small screen.
Speaking of a child’s view, I saw the new Pixar film Brave last weekend. It’s an absolute joy, funny, sweet, and, well, it’s Pixar…. from the music to the lyrical voices, to the gorgeous artwork, Brave just glows. The loch looked like moving water, the horse’s fear made my heart pound, and the bears had full-blown personalities. The people had as well! Emma Thompson was Queen Elinor (well, her voice, but the facial expressions almost looked like her as well), Billy Connolly was a sweetheart of a dad as King Fergus, Julie Walters was very funny as the wood carving witch, and the delightful Kelly MacDonald wins everyone’s heart as the coming-of-age-child, Merida. Animated or not, the acting was swell, the story was tight, and everyone should see this. Well, maybe not kids under 5….it has some scary moments.
There was also an opening short called, appropriately, La Luna, which was short and sweet and clever and heart-warming. Loved it – and look forward to more work from writer/director Enrico Casarosa.